A cycle of growth and giving back – Camp Director reflections

This summer I have had the privilege of observing campers finding their true selves at Tawonga. During this session, it has also been inspiring to notice the growth that returning campers experience as they come back to camp year after year, and their desire to pass on their knowledge and values to the next generation.


One of the things I love specifically about Session III is that it is our longest session (three full weeks), providing campers the opportunity to grow close not only with their bunkmates, but also with the broader Tawonga community. Within the framework of this longer session (and during Session IV as well), campers can participate in “bunk adoptions” – when an older bunk adopts a younger one, committing to planning activities with these younger campers and serving as role models during the session.


A camper from our second oldest unit, Haifa, experienced this tradition full-circle this summer. He told me that he remembers how fun it was years ago to be adopted as a Carmel camper by the older kids, and that this summer he is excited to take his responsibility seriously as a role model to his younger, adopted bunk.


Another camper, from our oldest unit of Chalutzim, also shared a reflection with me about the power of returning to Tawonga and the personal growth she has experienced. On the second night of each session, our staff leads separate Men’s and Women’s Campfires, where as groups we sing songs and engage in gender-specific discussions. At the Women’s Campfire it is a tradition to read the poem, “Phenomenal Woman”, by Maya Angelou.


After this session’s campfire, this camper remarked that reading this poem for the last six years with our community of girls and women has been a powerful experience for her, first as a 4th grader, and now as a 10th grader. She reflected that with each passing year, the words resonate with more meaning, to the point where she now believes wholeheartedly that she is herself a phenomenal woman.

It’s the fire in my eyes,

And the flash of my teeth,

The swing in my waist,

And the joy in my feet.

I’m a woman


During these campfires, both the girls and boys reflected on the pressure they can feel to look and act a certain way in their school environments; for both groups, what resonated was that at Tawonga, all they have to be is themselves, and they will be supported.


What an honor it is be a part of this supportive Tawonga community, where just about everyone who comes here truly does grow into a stronger, more authentic version of him or herself.


Wishing you a peaceful end to the week – Shabbat Shalom.


Jamie Simon-Harris
Camp Director


P.S. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to bookmark our blog, The Pipeline, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter so we can stay connected throughout the year.


P.P.S. One way to stay connected and to take Tawonga home with you is to join us for our Down the Mountain programs, including our Jewish Heritage Nights with the SF Giants on July 27th and the Oakland A’s on August 4th. Limited tickets are still available to join our Tawonga section – hope to see you there!



Below, enjoy photos from our day: